LAS VEGAS — Fresno State had grabbed the upper hand on defense, forcing 14 turnovers during that span in what would be a 72-55 Mountain West Basketball Championships quarterfinal win for the Bulldogs.
“I think our team was prepared for this game. We came in with a chip on our shoulder knowing what we had to do and I believe we got it done,” said Ki-Ki Moore, who scored 17 and forced four steals against the Broncos.
Fresno State faces Wyoming in today’s 2:30 p.m. semifinals. The Cowgirls and the Bulldugs split the regular-sesoon conference series.
The No. 3 Cowgirls beat sixth-seeded Colorado State in a 60-58 thriller on Thursday to advance.
“To go into the tournament you have to win three. We finished off the conference really well, so I think there was more confidence going into it,” Moult said.
And with two games separating them from the conference championship and an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs are showing consistency on the floor, said Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley.
“My philosophy, you don’t change anything at this time of year. They’re playing instinctually. They worked really hard to learn the system, incredibly hard at doing that,” Pebley said.
Vandenberg makes progress on offense
Jacinta Vandenberg, Fresno State’s 6-foot-6 freshman center, has seen bulks of minutes off the bench – and even started in the beginning of the season – in her first year.
Post players, slower to develop, Pebley said during the season, have been what Fresno State has been lacking for most of the season.
Alex Sheedy – a third-team All-Mountain West selection – has been playing out of position this season as the Bulldogs’ starting center.
One of the progressions Vandenberg needed to make during the season has been understanding that “she’s the best shot sometimes,” Pebley said after the Bulldogs’ Feb. 27, 49-42 win over Colorado State at the Save Mart Center. Vandenberg went scoreless in nine minutes of playtime in that game.
But in the Bulldogs’ win over the Broncos, there seemed to be a glimpse of progress.
Vandenberg, who played 17 minutes on Thursday (she played the second-most out of the Bulldogs’ reserves), took three shot attempts – and made all three.
There was an early layup she scored after grabbing a defensive rebound that put Fresno State up 15-2 early in the first half. There was also the clean jumper in the late second half, with Fresno State leading by 18.
Vandenberg finished the night with six points and four rebounds.
“Jacinta was crashing the boards, which was important for us,” Moult said.